This altarpiece by the leading artist in Bologna was painted in 1502 for the church of Santa Maria della Morte. Worshippers there were members of a lay religious group that visited prisoners and those condemned to death. They had the privilege of releasing a prisoner on the feast day of Saint Roch (ca. 1348–1376/79), who also protected plague victims, as denoted by the bubo on his leg.
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Fig. 1. Living Room, Carl W. Hamilton's Apartment, New York
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Fig. 2. Living Room, Carl W. Hamilton's Apartment, New York
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Artist:Francesco Francia (Italian, Bologna ca. 1447–1517 Bologna)
Medium:Tempera on wood
Dimensions:85 1/4 x 59 3/8 in. (216.5 x 150.8 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of George R. Hann, 1965
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): FRACIA AVRIFABER / MCCCCCII
Church of the Arciconfraternità ed Ospedale di Santa Maria della Morte, Bologna (suppressed 1798); Sir Mark Masterman Sykes, 3rd Baronet, Sledmere, Malton, Yorkshire (until d. 1823; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 21–22, 1824, no. 80, for £99.15 to Taylor); J. Taylor, London (1824–35; sale, Phillips, London, July 27–28, 1832, no. 157, as "St. Roche Pleading with God," for £119.4, bought in; his sale, Foster's, London, July 25, 1835, no. 80); Sir Walter Rockcliffe Farquhar, 3rd Baronet, London (by 1847–d. 1900; sale, Christie's, London, June 2, 1894, no. 147, for £997.10 to Gorleston, bought in); his son, Sir Henry Thomas Farquhar, 4th Baronet, London (1900–1901; sale, Christie's, London, June 15, 1901, no. 123, for £493.10 to Colnaghi); [Colnaghi, London, from 1901]; [C. and E. Canessa, Naples, by 1905?–at least 1911]; Carl W. Hamilton, New York (by 1924–at least 1940); George R. Hann, Sewickley, Pa. (by 1945–65)
London. British Institution. June 1847, no. 46 (lent by Sir Walter R. Farquhar, Bt.).
Manchester. Art Treasures Palace. "Art Treasures of the United Kingdom," May 5–October 17, 1857, no. 146 (lent by Sir W. R. Farquhar, Bart.).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1885, no. 176 (lent by Sir Walter Farquhar, Bart.).
Montclair, N.J. Montclair Art Museum. 1926, no catalogue? [see Arts 1926 and Zeri and Gardner 1986].
St. Louis. City Art Museum. "A Group of Italian Renaissance Paintings, Sculpture, Furniture, Majolica and Other Objects of Art from the Collection of Carl W. Hamilton," February 1928, no. 22 (as "Saint Roch the Pilgrim").
Greensburg, Pa. Westmoreland County Museum of Art. "Christmas Exhibition: Madonnas and Saints from the George R. Hann Collection," December 16, 1959–January 31, 1960, no. 8.
F. Cavazzoni. Pitture et sculture et altre cose notabili . . . . 1603, c. 20 [Biblioteca Comunale, Bologna, Ms B 1343; see Ref. Negro and Roio 1998].
Antonio di Paolo Masini. Bologna perlustrata. 3rd ed. Bologna, 1666, p. 208 [1st ed., 1650, p. 73], mentions it in the church of the Arciconfraternità di Santa Maria della Morte, Bologna.
Carlo Cesare Malvasia. Felsina pittrice: vite de' pittori bolognesi. Bologna, 1678, vol. 1, p. 299, mentions it in Santa Maria della Morte.
[Carlo Cesare Malvasia]. Le pitture di Bologna. Bologna, 1686, p. 244 [1776 ed., "Pitture, scolture ed architetture delle chiese, luoghi pubblici, palazzi, e case della città di Bologna, e suoi sobborghi," p. 219; 1792 ed., p. 272].
W. Burger [Théophile Thoré]. Trésors d'art exposés à Manchester en 1857. Paris, 1857, p. 50 [reprinted as "Trésors d'art en Angleterre," Brussels, 1860, with same pagination].
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. Unpublished manuscript. [ca. 1857] [Biblioteca Marciana, Venice, 2033/12274/IV; see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1986].
Julia Cartwright. Mantegna and Francia. London, 1881, p. 118.
Jean Paul Richter. Letter. December 20, 1883 [published in "Italienische Malerei der Renaissance im Briefwechsel von Giovanni Morelli und Jean Paul Richter," Baden-Baden, 1960, p. 295].
Introduction by R[obert]. H. Benson inExhibition of Pictures, Drawings & Photographs of Works of the School of Ferrara-Bologna, 1440–1540. Exh. cat., Burlington Fine Arts Club. London, 1894, p. xxii, calls it "a good school picture".
Arduino Colasanti. "Una tavola di Francesco Francia." Rassegna d'arte 5 (December 1905), pp. 188–89, ill., as in a private collection, Naples; notes that the figure was copied in 1504 by Simone delle Spade in an altarpiece in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.
Gaetano Ballardini. "Due pitture giovanili di Innocenzo da Imola." Bollettino d'arte 5 (1911), p. 148, fig. 2, as with C. and E. Canessa, Naples; mentions it as an example of a work by Francia that influenced Innocenzo da Imola.
Tancred Borenius, ed. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century.. By J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1871]. London, 1912, vol. 2, p. 277 n. 2, mentions it.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. "La pittura del Quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 3, Milan, 1914, pp. 906, 957, fig. 669, as formerly with a dealer in Naples.
G[eorg]. Gronau inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme. Vol. 12, Leipzig, 1916, p. 321, tentatively identifies it with the painting mentioned by Malvasia [see Refs. 1678 and 1686] in the Chiesa della Morte.
Algernon Graves. Art Sales from Early in the Eighteenth Century to Early in the Twentieth Century. Vol. 1, London, 1918, p. 291, gives provenance information.
Bernard Berenson. Letter to Carl W. Hamilton. July 27, 1924, calls it "a characteristic latish work".
"Paintings from the Hamilton Collection." Arts 9 (March 1926), p. 151, ill. p. 152, notes that works from the Hamilton collection were recently exhibited at the Montclair Art Museum.
Malcolm Vaughan. "Masterpieces in the Hamilton Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), p. 77, ill. between pp. 86 and 87 (color), states without basis that it was painted for Giovanni Bentivoglio; identifies the landscape as the valley seen from Perugia, with Lake Trasimeno; compares it with other works by Francia.
Raimond van Marle. Letter to Carl W. Hamilton. 1933, calls it a typical late work.
George Martin Richter. Letter to Carl W. Hamilton. July 16, 1940, calls it Francia's most important altarpiece.
Gerald Reitlinger. The Economics of Taste. Vol. , The Rise and Fall of Picture Prices, 1760–1960. London, 1961, pp. 317–18.
Theodore Rousseau in "Ninety-fifth Annual Report of the Trustees, for the Fiscal Year 1965–1966." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (October 1966), p. 78, ill. p. 79.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 148; vol. 3, pl. 1602, lists it incorrectly as from the church of S. Rocco, Bologna.
Ranieri Varese. "Una guida inedita del Seicento bolognese, 3." Critica d'arte, n.s., 16 (December 1969), p. 25.
Andrea Emiliani, ed. Le pitture di Bologna, 1686.. By Carlo Cesare Malvasia. Bologna, 1969, pp. 166, 285.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 75, 446, 609.
C. Bacchelli de Maria inDizionario enciclopedico Bolaffi dei pittori e degli incisori italiani. Vol. 5, Turin, 1974, p. 136.
Anthony M. Clark inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 83, ill.
Sylvia Hochfield. "Conservation: The Need is Urgent." Art News 75 (February 1976), p. 27.
Mirella Levi d'Ancona. The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting. Florence, 1977, p. 541.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, pp. 21–22, pl. 24, call it "almost certainly" the altarpiece mentioned by Masini [see Ref. 1666] and Malvasia [see Refs. 1678 and 1686] in the church of Santa Maria della Morte in Bologna.
Simonetta Stagni inPittura bolognese del '500. Ed. Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio. Bologna, 1986, vol. 1, pp. 3, 8, ill. p. 14.
Giuseppe Cirillo and Giovanni Godi. La Pinacoteca Stuard di Parma. Parma, 1987, p. 37.
Marzia Faietti inBologna e l'umanesimo, 1490–1510. Exh. cat., Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna. Bologna, 1988, p. 264 n. 3, under no. 68.
Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. Ed. Nicholas H. J. Hall. New York, 1992, p. 131.
Nicosetta Roio. "Riflessi di cultura lombarda nella pittura di Francesco Francia." Arte a Bologna 2 (1992), pp. 35, 44 n. 31.
Emilio Negro inLa scuola di Guido Reni. Ed. Massimo Pirondini and Emilio Negro. Modena, 1992, pp. 241, 245 n. 40.
Marzia Faietti. "Protoclassicismo e cultura umanistica nei disegni di Francesco Francia." Il classicismo: Medioevo, rinascimento, barocco. Ed. Cesare Gnudi. Bologna, 1993, p. 183, relates the figure of Saint Roch to a drawing in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Federica Toniolo. "I dipinti di Francesco Francia e della sua bottega conservati al Museo di Belle Arti." Bulletin du Musée Hongrois des Beaux-Arts no. 78 (1993), p. 78.
Marzia Faietti inAmico Aspertini. Modena, 1995, p. 33.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 113, ill.
David Ekserdjian inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 11, New York, 1996, p. 700, fig. 2.
Giovanni Sassu in Pietro Lamo. Graticola di Bologna. Ed. Marinella Pigozzi. Bologna, 1996, p. 168.
Gian Piero Cammarota. Le origini della Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna. Vol. 1, Bologna, , p. 414.
Emilio Negro and Nicosetta Roio. Francesco Francia e la sua scuola. Modena, 1998, pp. 80, 154–55, no. 24, ill. (color).
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 40, 42, fig. 27 (color).
Joseph Manca inItalian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. Washington, 2003, pp. 284, 286 n. 10.
Elizabeth A. Pergam. "From Manchester to Manhattan: The Transatlantic Art Trade After 1857." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 87, no. 2 (2005), pp. 75, 85, 91, reproduces a sketch by George Scharf recording the placement of this work at the Manchester exhibition of 1857.
Giorgia Mancini and Nicholas Penny. The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings. Vol. 3, Bologna and Ferrara. London, 2016, pp. 152–53 n. 23.
"American Dionysus: Carl W. Hamilton (1886–1967), Collector of Italian Renaissance Art." Journal of the History of Collections 31, no. 2 (2019), pp. 412, 417, figs. 3, 4.
The figure of Saint Roch was copied by Simone delle Spade in 1504 in an altarpiece now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, depicting the Madonna and Child with Saints Apollonia and Roch (illustrated in Laudedeo Testi, "Miscellanea: Simone dei Martinazzi, 'alias' Simone delle Spade," L'arte 8 , p. 369; also in Negro and Roio 1998, p. 41).
"The subtlety of the glazing is everywhere impoverished by abrasion and overcleaning in the past. There are, additionally, scattered losses due to flaking." [from Zeri and Gardner 1986]
This painting was installed in the New York collector Carl W. Hamilton's living room from about 1920 until at least 1940 (see figs. 1, 2 above).
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